STATE KNOWS BEST? WHEN IS IT TOO MUCH POWER?

Monday, August 5, 2019 - 3:15pm
Dakota Tuck

April 13th, 2019 should have been a day to rejoice for Timothy McGaffin and his wife, Cheri. They welcomed a new baby girl into their family. It was a normal home birth with a midwife attending, about 4 hours after the birth they noticed their babies eye twitch once. They were a little concerned and decided to have their baby checked over by a physician. It was a weekend so the best option was to drive to their local hospital.

            Once they arrived at the Gunnison hospital there was no pediatrician, but the available doctor checked out the baby and gave the opinion that she seemed fine and that sometimes newborns just do weird things after they are born. Feeling relieved the McGaffins prepared to take their baby home. The doctor asked them to wait for a moment and then the real nightmare began. The doctor told them he wanted to call Primary Childrens Hospital since he isn’t a pediatrician. After the call the doctor informed the McGaffins that Primary Childrens wanted to see the baby right away. Timothy and his wife were not certain they wanted to do that, and said they wanted to just watch her since the attending physician couldn’t tell them what, if anything was wrong.

            The McGaffins were told that an AirMed flight was already on the way, and when they wouldn’t sign the consent forms immediately, they were pressured with threats that if they didn’t, then DCFS ( Department of Child and Family Services) would be called and asked to intervene. Despite their misgivings they agreed to have their baby  flown to Primary Childrens even though it was not a critical situation and they would have preferred to drive her to the hospital. The McGaffins were told a neurological monitoring device needed to be put on the baby and she needed to be observed for 12-24 hours and during this time they could not hold her or nurse her until they received clearance from the neurologist. The McGaffins asked if the nurses could give their daughter donated breast milk in a syringe, but the hospital said that donated breast milk was reserved for preemies and underweight babies, their daughter was born a healthy 10+ lbs. The hospital was administering fluids and antibiotics through an IV as a precaution in case an infection had caused the rare eye twitch.

   Cheri was trying to pump some milk but as most new mothers know, milk can be slow to come in, especially without a nursing baby to trigger it. After 38 hours Cheri had finally been able to get a syringe of milk pumped to give to the baby when they were stopped and asked to go talk with someone from DCFS.

            Timothy and Cheri were quite upset and anxious to go give their newborn something to eat. They asked why DCFS was involved and they found that Gunnison hospital had called them because it is protocol if a parent refuses to sign consent to fly her to the hospital. The McGaffins informed DCFS their daughter was being treated and  DCFS should be  looking into why the hospital had not allowed their newborn daughter to be fed for 38 hours! A head nurse was brought in to mediate and confirmed that the child was under observation. Almost directly after the McGaffins raised the question of hospital neglect to DCFS the neurologist came down and told them basically the same thing that the Gunnison hospital did, sometimes newborns do weird things and that there was nothing wrong. They were finally cleared to go feed their baby.

            They finally got their baby home and DCFS made an unannounced visit on April 22nd. The

case was closed on May 13th. There are several disturbing things about this case:

 

1. DCFS was called when there was no suspicion of abuse and had signed the consent form. Why is it protocol to bring DCFS in if the parents ask questions and hesitate to sign the consent form? They did sign and yet DCFS was still called, was this because it was a home birth and the McGaffins exercised their parental right not to vaccinate?

2. Why did the hospital insist on an AirMED flight even though it was not a medical crisis and it would have actually been quicker for the parents to drive to Primary Childrens Hospital?  To drive would have taken 2 hours,  and AirMed from start to finish was 5 hours. Was this to ensure that the hospital kept control of the child?

3. Why did it take over 38 hours for the neurologist to make a diagnosis on a test that was supposed to take 12-24 hours? How long would it have taken to get the neurologist to give approval for the baby to be fed if the McGaffins had not raised the question of hospital neglect?

4. Why didn’t DCFS close the case immediately when they saw the child was being observed by the hospital and there was no signs of abuse or neglect?

 

            I called several people at DCFS and was given stock answers of  their mission statement to ensure the safety of all children. I was finally able to correspond with Sara Welliver, Public Information Officer of DCFS and asked, “Could you please tell me DCFS policy in situations where NO abuse is suspected and the only reason DCFS was called was for an initial refusal to sign a consent to treat, but by the time DCFS arrived the consent form had been signed and the child was clearly under the care of a physician so NO medical neglect is present.

What is the policy on opening a case and continued investigation of the parents in these cases?”

 

            Her response was, “After we receive a referral, for a case to be opened it must meet the threshold of what the state defines as abuse, neglect or dependency. You can find further information on CPS investigations and their process after a case is opened in Utah Code 62A-4a-408.

 

Due to confidentiality I unfortunately cannot confirm involvement with a family, give specifics on a case, or hypothesize. I strongly encourage you to reach out to other sources for further information related to your concerns.”

 

            After thoroughly reading through the code, I still failed to see how this case met the requirement for the opening of an investigation. Unfortunately this is not a unique tale.  The McGaffins want to shine a light on the abuse of power the state holds and ask that there be a policy change. DCFS should never be called when abuse or neglect is not suspected. Parents should not have to fear intimidation when it comes to choosing medical treatment for their children. Timothy McGaffin said if this happens to you, stand up to them, ask questions and do not allow them to bully you. For how you can find out more about his case and what you can do to get involved,  visit www.defendingutah.org

 

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